Photo by Gary Alpert, deafboymusicphotography.com.
Some bands just have to be seen in person to be appreciated. You might’ve heard this one before, but some acts are like that. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion just seem bound for the stage, built around their frontman’s massive personality and held together by their strength as a live act. They’ve got plenty of new material to air out in public, and have set out on a massive spring and summer tour to support their latest album. One of the very first stops on this jaunt was at the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, Massachusetts (Boston, basically), a small wood and brick venue that basically amounts to a darkened rectangular room with a stage in one corner and next to nothing to separate the performers from the audience.
Brooklyn’s Daddy Long Legs opened the set up with their own throwback take on the blues. Period costumes, period lyrics, and period music were all on the band’s calling card. Drummer Josh Styles plays a kit entirely without cymbals, and hits his drums with a maraca instead of a second drumstick. Singer and apparent bandleader Daddy Long Legs varied his contributions throughout the set, starting out with his harmonica and vaguely Tom Waits-ish vocals before picking up a second guitar for the group’s last few songs. Messy, bluesy, and just simple enough that any new listener can pick up on what they’re about. As an opener, it’s hard to choose a better act for this show.
After very short set break, the Blues Explosion took the stage to no shortage of enthusiasm from the assembled onlookers. Spencer takes his position as the group’s partial namesake and frontman very seriously, doing everything in his power to act both as the group’s lead vocalist and its hype man, engaging the crowd whenever possible throughout the songs and keeping the energy going to the point where the entire show seemed as if it could’ve been made up on the stage. The rest of the trio did their best to keep up with his energy, as on stage he is most certainly the sort of performer whose spontaneity has to be matched by the group to make it all work.
As the band barreled through their set, there seemed to be almost no break whatsoever between the songs. Audience interaction was far from at a minimum, but the group’s energy and flair for performance meant that dead moments during the set were entirely nonexistent. Spencer endlessly gyrated around the stage, posed with his guitar, and stood at the platform’s edge to get as close a look at the audience as possible. Audience members danced, took photos, and even managed to make light conversation with the band. The performance took place at the sort of space with absolutely no barrier between the artists and the audience whatsoever, meaning that every person in the entire crowd was practically on the stage with the band.
Once the group had spent roughly an hour constantly performing, they said goodbye before coming back from possibly the most transparent encore break ever in rock music. Spencer took care to introduce the other members of the trio, both of whom got a turn singing lead. Once things had continued onwards for almost another half hour, the group’s set finally ended for real before anyone died from exhaustion. After the show had ended and the lights had come up, a sweat-drenched Spencer was shaking hands and taking pictures next to the group’s merchandise table.
If you happen to have not seen this incredible live act in person yet, take the chance as the current tour happens to be running all across North America for the next two months and is probably headed to a place close to you. Don’t miss out, the blues is number one.